Prenuptial agreements: self preservation or romantic suicide?
Both wedding and reception venues are reserved, you’ve arranged decorations and food, you’ve even booked the flights and hotels for your exotic honeymoon. Everything is going smoothly. You’re in love and you couldn’t be happier. Then it happens. Your partner asks you to sign a prenuptial agreement.
A prenuptial agreement; a legally binding contract in which both parties of a marriage outline responsibilities they wish to fulfil during their marriage and their rights over property. How this is most typically perceived however, is as a pre-emptive division of financial assets and responsibilities upon the dissolution of the marriage. In other words, what you get to keep if you get divorced.
Quite simply, nothing says ‘I don’t believe in fairy tale endings’ quite as succinctly as the words ‘prenuptial agreement’. So when you’re enjoying the sort of romantic montage that would make even Jennifer Aniston a little queasy, prenuptial agreements may not seem like the most obvious topic for discussion prior to the big day.
Well, boys and girls, I’m here to burst some proverbial bubbles. I’ll concede; there is absolutely nothing romantic about prenuptial agreements. But I’d like to take off those rose-tinted glasses of yours for a second and offer you a healthy dose of perspective.
The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth
I’m sorry. Not all marriages end with ‘happily ever after.’ In fact, a surprisingly high percentage of marriages (42 per cent according to the Office for National Statistics) end with the big D-word. And whilst we’re sure that you’re part of the remaining 58 per cent, perhaps you’d like to err on the side of caution.
So how do you get one of these prenuptial agreements? The legal process of drawing up a prenup is actually pretty simple. It’s getting to that point that can complicate things.
In short, if you want your partner to sign a prenuptial agreement you have to give them plenty of warning. Dropping it on them in the year approaching the wedding isn’t really acceptable and one day a judge may look back at your eleventh hour decision and turn the vote against you for coercion.
Be honest with your partner. Explain your reasons and empathise with their situation – your partner will inevitably think you have doubts about the relationship. That’s the hard part. Once you’ve mastered that, the rest is (fairly) simple.
Get a solicitor. Don’t download a DIY agreement. A solicitor will only have to spend your time and money fixing it to actually make it worth anything. See a solicitor with your partner and draw up reasonable agreements. Another upside of working with a solicitor is that they will guide you through the process.
So who needs a prenup?
Nobody needs a prenup. It isn’t a legal requirement and you can quite happily go into a marriage without ever mentioning it. It is just seen as sensible financial planning.
But you may want a prenup if you are a business owner, the owner of significant assets, the carer of a dependent (a child, a person with a disability or an elderly person that requires money) or in a position where you believe you have the potential for huge increases of wealth/fame. A prenuptial agreement will set out the definitions as to what will happen with each of these assets should the worst case scenario unravel. As unromantic as it may be, it is important to protect these personal assets in the possibility that your other half may have a change of heart. We’re sure they won’t but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
But… but, what about romance?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying prenuptial agreements are the answer to a successful marriage. In fact, quite the opposite; the suggestion of a prenuptial agreement is highly unlikely to strengthen your marriage. But this is one part of marriage that isn’t about romance. This is about loving yourself.
I asked John of a marriage approaching its 25th anniversary what his thoughts on prenuptial agreements were.
‘I don’t agree with prenuptials,’ he said. ‘I think if you’re suspicious of the person you’re marrying, then that person isn’t right for you. You should take the good and the bad, and never go into it expecting to fail.’
But would John be any worse off if he did have a prenup? Is this just a case of bad stigma? I don’t think getting a prenuptial agreement means that you don’t trust your partner. It just means that things change and unexpected things happen. After all, look at driving insurance. I for one never go out driving with the intention of crashing.
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